Training and Certification

Rubel Khan's Blog

New Roles and Skills for Cloud Computing!

Posted by Rubel Khan on August 14, 2011

By David Linthicum, Microsoft

This article is commissioned by Microsoft Corp. The views expressed are the author’s own.

Clearly, cloud computing requires new skills inside of organizations that are moving to the cloud. We all get that. However, many companies have difficulty understanding exactly what those skills are, the scope required, and the timing. According to a recent survey covered by NetworkWorld, cloud adoption can run into resistance when stakeholders within an organization are unclear about how they’ll be affected by the migration.

There are several ways this can play out. Many companies take the position that cloud computing is much the same as traditional computing, and that their existing teams and skillsets will suffice. That’s a huge mistake. Others will rapidly retrain their existing staff to the use of the cloud. A few are on cloud computing hiring sprees, offering signing bonuses and big salaries.

My take on all of this is that before we ignore the problem, or toss money at it, perhaps this a good time to put some lines in the sand around what skills are required as the cloud creeps into our IT universe. (My colleague Jeff Vance recently outlined how CIOs and IT workers can reposition themselves for a cloud-based future.)

When considering what skills are needed to thrive in the cloud, I like to use a role-based approach, with the new roles being:

  • Cloud Architect
  • Cloud Security Specialist
  • Cloud Developer
  • Cloud Infrastructure Manager
  • Provider Specialist

Cloud architect is the No. 1 job posting that I see from any company or consulting organization looking to move into cloud computing. While the job descriptions vary widely, typically the cloud architect has an understanding of enterprise architecture, SOA, and the new directions that cloud computing can take both of those disciplines.

More simply put, the cloud architect is a jack-of-all-trades, but master of cloud. They should have a detailed knowledge of PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS, including the players and solutions that are available on the market. This means working with developers and existing IT leadership to progress toward the use of cloud computing, making the right decisions along the way.

Cloud security specialist is perhaps the most important role and skillset you’ll need in moving to the cloud. He or she should understand the new security models and enabling security technology that’s required to keep you out of trouble as you relocate core business processes and data to private, public, or hybrid clouds.

Core skills here are an understanding of what changes with regard to security issues when you move to cloud. I’ve found that cloud security specialists need to understand newer security models and technologies, such as federated identity management and the ability to support data encryption both in flight and at rest in and between clouds. They typically work with existing security staff, so this person needs to have some people skills as well.

Cloud developer core skills are an understanding of core PaaS platforms, private or public, and how applications are designed, developed, and deployed on those platforms. This is a creative and innovative position, if you ask me; one that really requires people who can learn on their own and are willing to experiment with new technology that is rapidly emerging.

I find that cloud developers are typically self-taught. They work with cloud computing by leveraging free trial accounts to create applications on their own time. While that may seems scary to you, those are the types of developers you want on your side.

Cloud infrastructure manager seems like an oxymoron considering that we’re looking to push processes and data outside of the firewall—what  infrastructure needs to be managed? However, this person has a rather important role.  Cloud computing requires special attention to networking and remote or local server monitoring. Thus, somebody needs to pay close attention to the management of their infrastructure in support of cloud, else you’ll find your clouds are not as reliable as they should be.

Skills required here would be knowledge of existing network, application, and database management approaches and technologies, and a deep knowledge of the cloud providers and/or technology you’re leveraging. I would suggest you target those better infrastructure managers in your IT organization and retrain them.

Provider specialist is the person who understands the details around the cloud providers you’re leveraging—public, private, or hybrid. This means that his or her skills are all about being the go-to person in terms of questions that need to be answered and problems solved around a specific provider.

While you can hire these people if you can find them, I find that, in most cases, they are created within organizations through extensive provider training programs. You find the smarter people in IT who have an interest in diving deep into a product or service and then spend some budget to get them the skills. Huge ROI there.

The fact of the matter is that we’re always changing the skillsets required to support IT. The use of cloud computing is not much different. What is new is the degree of change that needs to occur in a relatively short period of time.

Leveraging cloud computing to the fullest is all about the talent you have around you. Investing in training, consulting, mentoring, and even paying through the nose for a few highly desirable skills will be the way of the world for the next several years. However, the return to the business easily justifies the investment.



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